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White House Moves to Discredit Russia Probe, Trump Foes; White House: Women Were Lying about Sex Harassment by Trump; Trump Complains about 'Costly' Russia Investigations; White House Moves To Discredit Russia Probe Trump Foes; Some JFK Files Releaased, Trump Keeps Others Secret; North Koreans Echo Kim Jong-un, Call Trump "Deranged". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 27, 2017 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news, changing the subject. The White House and its allies step up their efforts to discredit the investigations of Russian meddling and possible collusion by Trump associates. The president targets the special counsel's budget and claims Hillary Clinton is the one who did the colluding. Is he trying to change the subject?

[17:00:29] Improper intervention? President Trump presses the Justice Department to lift a gag order on an FBI informant to testify in a Republican led probes of Russian uranium purchases during the Obama administration. Did the president act improperly to advance a case against political foes?

"Yeah," they're lying. Amid a firestorm of sexual harassment in the workplace, the White House is questioned about the 16 women who've accused Donald Trump of sexually harassing them. Asked if all these women are lying, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders says, "Yeah."

And "deranged lunatic." In a CNN exclusive, we'll take you inside North Korea's capital, where residents echo the hard line language of Kim Jong-un.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump is stepping up his effort to discredit the Russian meddling investigation and getting directly involved in a Republican-led effort against his political foes.

The White House confirms the president personally pushed for the Justice Department to lift a gag order on an FBI informant who can now testify before Congress on Russia's efforts to buy U.S. uranium during the Obama administration.

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway claims it's an effort at transparency, but critics say the president is trying to muddy the waters. Amid a new barrage of claims by the White House and its allies that

special counsel Robert Mueller is wasting money, President Trump tweeted today, without any evidence, that it is now commonly agreed, after many months of costly looking, that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. He added -- and I'm quoting him now -- "There was collusion with H.C.," meaning Hillary Clinton.

The top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee says it's beyond disturbing if the president acted to advance a case against a political opponent.

Congressman Adam Schiff says he may open an investigation into the president's apparent meddling.

And as tensions rise with North Korea, Defense Secretary James Mattis today visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone, stressing the U.S. goal is not war but a diplomatic situation to what he calls "the reckless behavior of Kim Jong-un's regime." In a CNN exclusive, we'll go live to North Korea for reaction.

And I'll speak with Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of the Armed Services Committee. And our correspondents, specialists and guests, they're standing by with full coverage.

But let's begin with apparent moves to discredit the entire Russia investigation. Up first, our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, seems like the White House is deploying a smoke screen of distractions.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It may be a Moscow misdirection, Wolf. The White House now appears to be putting its full weight behind an effort to investigate Hillary Clinton for any possible role in a uranium business deal involving the Russians that happened during the Obama administration. The president is accusing Hillary Clinton of collusion with the Russians without any evidence.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is pointing to what it believes to be evidence of Russian collusion but not with President Trump.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think we are seeing now that, if there was any collusion with Russia, it was between the DNC and the Clintons and certainly not our campaign.

ACOSTA: Apparently latching onto reports of the rising cost of special counsel Bob Mueller's investigation, the president insisted on Twitter that "There was no collusion between Russia and Trump." The collusion, the president insisted, was with Hillary Clinton.

That charge comes just days after it was revealed the Clinton campaign and the Democrats helped fund research that led to the so-called Russian dossier of opposition research aimed at then-candidate Trump. But up until this point, the White House has yet to offer any evidence of Clinton collusion with the Russians.

(on camera): How about evidence of collusion of Hillary -- Sarah, no, the president made a charge that Hillary Clinton...

SANDERS: I think I've -- I think I've addressed that pretty thoroughly. Mike, go ahead.

ACOSTA: So you're saying that...

SANDERS: I'm saying that I'm calling on your colleague.

ACOSTA: OK, well, you didn't really address that question.

(voice-over): The White House accusations also follow Republican calls for an investigation into the sale of the Uranium One mining company to the Russians during the Obama administration. One top West Wing official says President Trump pressed for a gag order to be lifted on an informant in the probe so the truth can come out.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: He believes, as many others do, frankly, that the FBI informant should be free to say what he knows.

ACOSTA: Before the 2016 campaign, conservatives were pushing the Uranium One story as evidence of Clinton corruption, but proof of the former secretary of state's involvement never came.

[17:05:08] GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Do you have any evidence that she actually intervened in this issue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, we don't have direct evidence, but it warrants further investigation, because again, George, this is part of a broader pattern.

ACOSTA: Democrats are questioning why the president personally intervened in the Uranium One probe, suspecting he is simply trying to distract from his own Russia questions.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (R), CALIFORNIA: Now the question is, is this being done in good faith? And it's very hard to reach the conclusion that this is done in good faith, that we have now suddenly, six or seven years after the fact, decided we've got to do another investigation of Hillary Clinton to try to prove that Hillary Clinton interfered in this decision to grant this uranium sale.

ACOSTA: Just days ago, again without offering any evidence, the president said the Uranium One sale amounted to another Watergate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded with tremendous amounts of money being passed, I actually think that's Watergate, modern age.

ACOSTA: For the president, it's a return to a familiar tactic employed throughout the campaign. When accused of wrongdoing, point the finger at your opponent.

HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It is -- it's just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.

TRUMP: Because you'd be in jail.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Clinton...


ACOSTA: Now the press secretary did not exactly echo what White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said about the president's involvement in the Uranium One investigation. Sarah Sanders said she was not aware of, quote, "any specific involvement," just that he, quote, "pushed for transparency."

And as for allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, we should point out, Wolf, congressional investigators and the special counsel, they haven't reached any conclusions in those investigations, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim, I want to play a moment from today's White House press briefing, a question about sexual harassment. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, sexual harassment has been in the news. At least 16 women accuse the president of sexually harassing them throughout the course of the campaign. Last week, in a press conference in the Rose Garden, the president called these accusations fake news. Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?

SANDERS: Yeah, we've been clear on that from the beginning, and the president has spoken on it.


BLITZER: Pretty stunning response: "Yeah, we've been clear on that." She suggests in that response, she flatly says in that response that all 16 of these women who have made these accusations against the president are lying.

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf.

And you remember during the campaign when the president was accused of all of this, he said he was going to sue his accusers, and that never occurred. And so the president, if he wanted to prove that these women were lying, he could bring lawsuits against those women and put them through a process where they'd be to have deposed and actually put forward evidence. He has not brought those lawsuits.

Obviously, that is something that has not happened since he was sworn into office.

And keep in mind, Wolf, just the other day, when the Harvey Weinstein story came up, CNN pressed the president on his own behavior in the past and those comments that he made on "Access Hollywood" that just about doomed his campaign -- didn't doom his campaign but almost doomed his campaign. He once again described those comments that were captured by "Access Hollywood" as locker-room talk.

So the president, the White House here, they are once again making it very clear the president has not done anything wrong with respect to any of those allegations, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta reporting for us at the White House, thank you.

The president today also tweeted about what he called the costly Russia investigations, and there have been Republican suggestions that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is spending too much money.

Let's bring in CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's working this part of the story for us. Ryan, any chance Congress can kill the funding for the special counsel?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the short answer to that question is no. There's very little that the White House can do with the special counsel's budget.

And this is how their funding works. It actually is money that's already been appropriated. It's a special account under the Treasury Department. It's not through the Department of Justice's budget.

And right now, Robert Mueller and his team will have to submit their spending plan to the Department of Justice for review, but there's very little that the Department of Justice can do to reign in that spending.

Now, Congress could take an extraordinary step and apply a rider to an upcoming spending Bill that would then stop the special counsel funding if they choose to do that. But there's been very little political will to make something like this happen.

In fact, Wolf, back in September, Ron DeSantis, who's a congressman from Florida, proposed an amendment to the current spending Bill that would stop the special counsel's funding after six months. House Republican leaders did not even allow that amendment to come to the floor.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point. Thanks very much. Ryan Nobles reporting for us.

The whole notion of what's going on is a subject that is getting a lot of attention right now. I want to dig a bit deeper right now. Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He's a member of the Armed Services Committee. He's an Iraq War veteran; he's a U.S. Marine.

[17:10:04] Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D), ARIZONA: Thank you for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: So the White House is trying to flip the script on the Russia probe. The president tweeted this morning this. He said, "It is now commonly agreed, after many months of costly looking, that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with H.C.," meaning Hillary Clinton.

And this afternoon the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders said -- quoting her now -- "We're now starting to see all the things the Dems have accused this president of doing, they were actually guilty of themselves."

We've also heard from congressional Republicans who say the Russia probe has gone on far too long.

Does all of this taken together appear to be a coordinated attack on the credibility of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation?

GALLEGO: Absolutely. It's pretty much a cynical ploy by Republicans, the Trump administration and his allies, including the Mercer family, Koch brothers and whoever has been funding some of these other outside groups, to discredit a professional like Mueller, who has been been getting closer and closer to the truth.

There's been other stories that have come out, specifically today because of "The New York Times" reporting that the Russian lawyer supposedly that came to talk about adoptions actually had coordinated talks with high government officials at the Kremlin. You know, there's a lot more coming out.

And I think this is a coordinated attack, because they know that Mueller is finding information that is possibly going to prove that there was high-level involvement from the Trump campaign with the Russian and Russian spy agencies.

Just alone this week, we found out about Cambridge Analytica, that he -- they had reached out to WikiLeaks. Right there, there is just proof of foreign involvement in that specific instance from a Trump campaign operative. So where else is this going to go? And I think they all smell -- they all smell or feel the breath of the special prosecutor; and they realize that there's -- they're in trouble, and they're trying to distract right now.

BLITZER: Well, the president, over the past day or so, keeps talking about how costly the investigation is. Do you worry the Republicans will try to cut the special counsel's budget?

GALLEGO: Well, first of all, the Republicans can't pass any budget without Democratic votes because they're so disorganized. Secondly, they probably should have thought of that before the president ticked off three Republican senators in the Senate, who I think are pretty much aiming to make sure we get to the bottom of the truth; that being Corker, Flake and McCain.

But let's also look at some other facts here. For example, we now know also that there's been nothing but delays and other delays when it comes to Russian sanctions. Why is this president still holding back on Russian sanctions that were passed unanimously by Congress, by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate?

You know, the office of the secretary of state that actually covers sanctions has just been disbanded. There's -- there's some critical questions we should be asking. Why is this president, after attacking almost anybody that even comes close to him, has no problems trying to defend Russia, and we hardly ever hear him say anything negative about Russia? It certainly calls into question what his motivation is and definitely calls into question these current actions that are occurring both among House Republicans and the Trump administration.

BLITZER: Yes. He said in that interview with FOX Business News this week he wants to have good relations with Russia and says there's nothing wrong with having good relations with Russia.

As you know, your colleague, the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, he tweeted this today, and I'll put it up on the screen: "If the president personally intervened with DOJ" -- Department of Justice -- "to advance case against political opponent, it's beyond disturbing. I intend to pursue in new probe."

Do you agree that there is something Congress should look into, as far as the president's intervening, getting involved at the Department of Justice to lift that gag order on that FBI informant?

GALLEGO: Well, not just the gag order. The president right now is personally interviewing who is going to be the U.S. attorney for the area where Trump Tower is in New York City. Some of that is unheard of

We have him clearly trying to influence Comey in terms of the Russia investigation. The president breaking all types of norms when it comes to politicizing the Department of Justice, and it should be investigated.

Also, I'd like to also point out, no matter what is going on, Mueller's investigation got started because there was a movement by the president to obstruct justice. There was nothing yet operating when I when it came to Russia. It was the president's actions trying to get Comey to drop the investigation that created this situation.

And I think at the end of the day, we should really focus on that, and let's not get distracted by these other things. Because at the end of the day, it's the president's actions with the DOJ that are going to create, I think, a situation that clearly points to obstruction of justice.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise. You didn't mean that the president is now trying to influence Comey, who's the fired FBI director. I assume you meant he's trying to influence Robert Mueller. Is that what you're suggesting?

[17:15:00] GALLEGO: I apologize. No, I'm trying to point out the fact that the obstruction of justice -- the special prosecutor is looking to obstruction of justice, which began because the president's action during the firing of FBI Director Comey and now has extended into whatever further the investigation has gone into.

BLITZER: All right. Glad you clarified that. Thanks very much.

We've got a lot more to discuss, though, Congressman. I've got to take a quick break. We'll resume all of the breaking news right after this.


BLITZER: We're back with Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of the Armed Services Committee. He's a U.S. Marine, an Iraq War veteran.

Congressman, I want to quickly get to the ambush of those American soldiers in Niger, which left four service members dead.

A Nigerian soldier -- Nigerian soldiers -- tells us now that he encountered the American convoy the day before the attack. And he tells CNN that the team appeared -- appeared -- to only have one heavy machine gun, no body armor, were driving in unarmored vehicles wearing T-shirts and baseball caps.

You served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would you have felt comfortable going out into a potentially very dangerous territory with that level of preparation?

GALLEGO: Absolutely not. And I sat in a classified briefing on the Armed Services Committee where we were able to ask questions, and some very pointed questions were asked, including I asked some pointed questions about what occurred. And it's disappointing to hear the answers.

One, the administration and Department of Defense does not have any answers three weeks later about what actually occurred. They are, quote unquote, "still doing an investigation."

And no, I would never roll out like that. Especially when they were originally tasked to be a QRF, a quick reaction force. We never rolled out in any element less than a full platoon size. And when we did, we had full access and resources to air power, close air -- close air support, and other type of supporting fire.

The fact that these -- if this is true, talking to this -- listening from this witness, that is horribly irresponsible; and it shows that there needs to be some more guidance at the Department of Defense. And the idea that we're allowing commanders on the field, low-level commanders to allow any U.S. troops to be operating in any hostile area in that manner is just dereliction of duty. That's how men end up -- men and women end up dying because of mistakes like this.

BLITZER: Because U.S. military officials also tell us that it's not necessarily uncommon for Green Beret-led troops, Green Beret advisors to go without body armor in what they call "low-threat areas," and that this team apparently never expected to encounter hostile forces. Was this therefore a clear case of an intelligence failure?

GALLEGO: It was an intelligence failure, but it's also a command failure. The idea that you send these men out -- first of all, they were first tasked as a QRF. Then they were tasked to go do contact with a -- with a village is -- it shows you that you have really improper planning.

If you're going to serve as a QRF -- because they're supposed to serve to a QRF to another mission -- they should have had all the proper armament they needed to conduct a proper attack, should there have ever been in that case.

Also, even if the Green Berets are operating in that manner to deescalate and be able to make contacts with local tribesmen, and I was never operating in that sense, but we did -- I did provide security for civil affairs groups. And we understand -- I understand that concept. We still should have had air power online, full communications, everything we needed, in case something should happen.

BLITZER: Congressman Ruben Gallego, thanks very much for joining us.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

BLITZER: And coming up, we'll have more on breaking news, President Trump trying to distract from the Russia probe, saying the only collusion came from Hillary Clinton. Can he make the investigations go away by changing the subject?

And new clues are revealed about what top U.S. officials knew about the assassination of President Kennedy. But why is President Trump still keeping some documents under wraps?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:28:22] BLITZER: This hour's breaking news: what looks to be a full-court press by the White House to divert attention from the special counsel, Robert Mueller's, Russia investigation.

Just a little while ago the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, told reporters it's the Democrats who are guilty of collusion with Russia, not the Trump campaign. Sanders' remarks came after the president, via Twitter, also accused Hillary Clinton of colluding with Russia and complained about the cost special counsel, Robert Mueller's, investigation.

Let's bring in our political specialists to discuss. When you look at all of this that's going on, David Chalian, it clearly is an effort to discredit this whole Russia investigation of the Trump campaign.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's almost like the White House feels the Mueller investigation intensifying in some way and has gotten into gear to try and practice an age-old political art form, Wolf, which is, "Hey, look over here. Don't look over here."

And we saw the -- when the Clinton White House was facing investigations, we saw how the Clinton operatives put together an operation to try to take on Ken Starr and distract away from what was being looked into with regard to Bill Clinton. And we are now seeing a totally coordinated effort to try and distract from anything related to the Mueller investigation, any which way possible; muddy the waters no matter how irrelevant it is to the actual facts of the Russian investigation. That is what is happening here. BLITZER: Yes, it is pretty coordinated when you take a look at what's

going on, David Axelrod, right now. Multiple Republicans up on Capitol Hill, they're suggesting that the Russia probe has simply gone on way too long. There's a super PAC aligned with President Trump that put out an e-mail today: Should Mueller resign? It seems like a pretty coordinated effort. What do you think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it does, Wolf. And look, just to borrow a phrase from the president, his level of hysteria about this investigation has been almost from the beginning, about a ten out of ten. Now, I think it's at about a 12, because what's clear is that some associates of the president seem in extreme jeopardy of being indicted in this probe; Paul Manafort, being one who was, for a time, his campaign chairman, perhaps General Flynn, they seem to be in the crosshairs of this investigation. And where that lead is a big question mark for the White House.

So, I think that with these things coming down the track, there is an effort to divert and deflect some of these -- you know, what is going to be bad news and add momentum to the notion that perhaps there was some level of coordination, and certainly links between figures in the campaign and the Russians.

BLITZER: Because, you know, Kaitlan, the president says the real collusion -- in his words, the real collusion took place between Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the Russians.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. This is a merging narrative that we're seeing come out of this White House. Because this is a White House that likes to be on the offense in these situations. So, we've got the president tweeting that there was no collusion, that many have agreed to that, and that there was actual collusion with Hillary Clinton -- which is not what Bob Mueller, the special counsel, has said.

And then, we've got Sarah Sanders saying that this investigation is wrapping up and coming to a close, which is not what we have also heard from them, and then she was asked if she had spoken to the Department of Justice about this that they have been signaled, and she said no. This is a White House, this is the tactic that we've also seen this president use throughout the campaign. He likes to accuse people of what he's being accused of.

KAITLAN: Seen it before. David Axelrod, as you know, the president tweeted today that it is now commonly agreed after months of the cause, we're looking that there was no collusion between Russia and Trump, was collusion with H.C. (Hillary Clinton). But there's a report in the New York Times today, a significant report suggesting that that Russian lawyer who attended that meeting last summer over at Trump Tower in New York with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, cleared the memo that was provided with the Kremlin in advance. It's a significant statement if there was some sort of collusion that I'm sure the special counsel, among others, are looking into.

AXELROD: Yes. Well, this is an unfortunate bit of timing for the no collusion argument, because now we have evidence here that the lawyer who came to see Donald Trump Jr., Manafort, Jared Kushner, came armed with material that was prescreened by the Kremlin. And so, this denial that she was an apparatchik through the Russian government -- it sort of goes out the window.

And you know, that meeting has taken on quite a bit of importance, because that is the meeting when it was exposed to which the president is alleged to have written the talking points for his son that were released to the public that really minimized the meeting and said it was about adoption. Clearly, the memo that came from the Kremlin was not about adoption.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by; there's more we need to discuss. I heard the White House press secretary earlier in the day accuse those 16 women who've accused the president of sexual harassment. She says they are all liars, that's what the president has said. We'll assess that and more when we come back.


[17:38:15] BLITZER: We're back with our Specialist David Chalian. I want to play for you this exchange that occurred at the White House press briefing just a little while ago. We'll discuss.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, sexual harassment has been in the news, at least 16 women accused the president of sexually harassing them throughout the course of the campaign. Last week, during a press conference in the rose garden, the president called these accusations fake news. Is the official White House position that all of these women are lying?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, we've been clear on that from the beginning and the president has spoken on it.


BLITZER: Yes, we've been clear on this from the beginning. So, she's insisting that all 16 of these women are actually lying?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, they've been insisting that, the president has, or then-candidate Donald Trump and now President Trump and all of his aides to speak on his behalf have been insisting that since last year when these women started pouring out after the access Hollywood tape came out and telling their stories. Obviously, the United States is going through a pretty huge cultural moment right now as it relates to sexual harassment.

And Wolf, I do wonder, you know, president of the United States, somebody in that role might have some thoughts on the sort of cultural phenomenon that's happening across the country. But as that question referenced, he's a pretty flawed messenger on that because he's based some of these acquisitions. And so, wonder if he'll ever express his thoughts about this moment in time in America, about what these women are saying or if he just wants to avoid the subject entirely, which I gather he does from Sarah Sanders' response.

BLITZER: Because it was a year ago that the access Hollywood video came out, and these 16 women made these accusations of sexual harassment, intimidation by the then-candidate. He said, right after the election, at the time he said he was going to sue all of these women. There've been no lawsuits filed since then.

[17:40:01] COLLINS: No, there haven't. And this is a president when he was not the president, threatened to sue many people and never followed through. But speaking of this, specifically, it's not surprising to me that Sarah Sanders defended the president and doubled down on their -- what they stand by, that he did not do this. But we can listen to a tape of the president saying he grabs women the way he wants to and that he kisses them without waiting. So, we can -- they can defend them all they want and they can say these things and shoot down certain claims. We can also listen to videos where the president himself talks about what he's done.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, David Axelrod, all of this was widely discussed during the campaign. He was the Republican Nominee at the time that access Hollywood video came out, and he was still elected president of the United States.

AXELROD: Yes, he sure was. And look, one thing we've learned about Donald Trump is there's no "r" on his gearbox there. He doesn't go in reverse; he only straight ahead. He doesn't acknowledge fault, he doesn't acknowledge failure. And he told us that he could stand on the fifth avenue and shoot someone and his base would still stick with him. I think he feels pretty confident about that. So, the fact that 16 women have attested to this, the fact that there's tape of him bragging about it notwithstanding, I think he feels very comfortable that people will -- that his people will stick with him.

And as to David Chalian's point, I'm not sure that he's sitting over there at the White House, saying, gee, I wish I had an opportunity to comment on this great cultural moment. I don't think that's what's on his mind right now. He thinks he's -- he has his base and he's going to go straight ahead.

BLITZER: And you look at the polls, David Chalian, very closely, that base is still with him.

CHALIAN: It is. Look at just the recent polls that came out, he's still between 82 and 85 percent support among Republicans, that's -- it's not the most healthy but it's a pretty healthy number. We've seen him hovering in this 37 to 40 percent range for months now. That seems to be a pretty solid floor, below which he hasn't fallen in the presidency yet, despite independence fleeing him at having almost no support from Democrats.

BLITZER: And they're pretty confident about that base over the White House, Kaitlan, aren't they?

COLLINS: They do seem pretty confident about it. That's something that they often appeal to when the president goes back to those campaign promises that he made. That's who he's looking forward. But going back to David's point from earlier, I just want to say that the White House is the White House; the president is the president, and he has a very large platform.

And they could've used that platform today to send a message of sensitivity to all these women coming forward, talking about men in power who sexually -- had sexually assaulted or harassed them. And used could've used that and still defended their boss, but also send a message to these women that they should speak up when something like this happens and they didn't do that.

BLITZER: Everybody stands by, there's more news we're following. Coming up, there are some tantalizing new clues about what top U.S. officials knew and guessed before and after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Why is President Trump keeping some of the most anticipated details still secret? Plus, Defense Secretary James Mattis visits the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Will his visit, or the upcoming trip by President Trump bring a new provocation by Kim Jong-un?


[17:47:58] BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning intriguing new details about the era in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But even though Trump authorized the release of thousands of pages from the government's secret files, he backtracked on his promise to make everything public. CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us right now with more. You also have some new details about President Kennedy and his killer.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, it's unbelievable and far from cooling off over the debate over the Kennedy assassination. This latest release of papers seems to have only heated up the argument.


FOREMAN: It is a critical question in the testimony of a CIA official: was Lee Harvey Oswald an agent? But the answer is cut off, leaving another tantalizing hint of conspiracy with no conclusion. The new JFK files are full of them. For example, along with notes about CIA plots to kill Cuba's Fidel Castro with a poison pill or an exploding seashell, there is an interceptive conversation between two Cuban spies; one says Oswald must have been a good shot; the other, oh, he was quite good, I knew him.

Another file describes a phone call, weeks before the assassination between a KGB agent in Mexico and Oswald who is speaking broken Russia and asking anything new concerning the telegram to Washington? The Soviets themselves thought Oswald had help. A source saying they believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the ultra-right within the United States, an apparent stab at the man who took over for Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson. But still, another file has the former CIA director saying, President Johnson used to go around saying that the reason President Kennedy was assassinated was that he had assassinated President Diem, the leader of South Vietnam. Plenty of new details for all theories, sure, but...

PHIL SHENON, AMERICAN AUTHOR: The big secrets that we've been looking for, if they're anywhere they're in the documents, we have not seen.

[17:50:00] FOREMAN: Yet, on and on, the conspiratorial talk rules. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover even noting just after Oswald's death, we received a call in our Dallas office from a man talking in a calm voice and saying he was a member of a committee organized to kill Oswald. It all seems tied to this very early Hoover memo noting the story of the investigation needed to be told well and quickly, so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.


FOREMAN: And yet, the uproar over this latest release of documents and those still being kept secrets proves, more than 50 years later the public has yet to be entirely convinced, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Tom, thank you. Tom Foreman reporting. We're also keeping a very close watch on developments on the Korean Peninsula right now. The Defense Secretary James Mattis today gazed across the Demilitarized Zone at the border between North and South Korea. He stressed that the United States goal right now is not war but a diplomatic solution to what he calls the Kim Jong-un regime's reckless behavior. CNN's Will Ripley is on his 16th visit to the North Korea capital of Pyongyang right now. Will, President Trump is to visit South Korea next month, what are you hearing from the North Koreans about that?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they listened to what Secretary Mattis said at the DMZ when he said that they are obsessed with weapons that are a threat to the region. And they say, they think the United States is the one obsessed with nuclear weapons which is why they feel they need to develop their nuclear arsenal, and they'll be watching very closely as President Trump arrives in this region, especially when he goes to South Korea. Will he go to the DMZ? Will he say something to make an already bad situation even worse? The North Koreans say they are ready to respond.


RIPLEY: As Asia prepares for President Trump's landmark visit, North Korea has been uncharacteristically quiet. No missile launches in a month and a half. No nuclear tests, at least not yet. Only North Korea's promise to send a clear message after Trump's menacing speech at the U.N. last month when he threatened to totally destroy North Korea.

At the time, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un vowed to tame the U.S. president with fire. Tah Sung-chol is Chief Engineer of a baby food factory, trying to maintain production levels despite the U.N. sanctions over North Korea's program. But he says, the nukes are here to stay.

"President Trump knows nothing about the Korean nation," he says, "now he's asking us to give up our nuclear weapons? Ask anyone on the street and they'll say he's a lunatic." His words echo North Korean propaganda -- anti-Trump posters are all

over Pyongyang. U.S. and North Korean officials say diplomacy has broken down as the rhetoric has revved up.

Pushing two nuclear powers further down a dangerous path. Both sides not ruling out talks altogether but their positions couldn't be farther apart. On a visit Friday to the Demilitarized Zone, diving North and South Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said America's goal is not war, but for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. But with Pyongyang closer than ever to achieving what it considers a nuclear balance of power with the U.S., giving up nukes is a non- starter.

But you know there are a lot of people around the world who think that by accumulating nuclear weapons, your country is putting itself at risk of total destruction.

"They have the wrong information," she says Pak Son-ok, "tell them to come to my country and see for themselves."

Do you have hope that someday your leader, Kim Jong-un, could meet the U.S. President Donald Trump?

"No, not at all," she says, "that meeting cannot happen. It will not happen because our marshal promised to deal with that deranged lunatic with fire."

Ominous words, slowly simmering ever since. As Trump's visit to the region looms, many wonder if the situation is about to boil over.


RIPLEY: This week here in Pyongyang, a senior diplomat told me the world needs to take, literally, North Korea's threat to conduct an above-ground nuclear test. The big question on everybody's mind, Wolf: will it happen when President Trump is here in the region, and what would be the result and the response from the U.S.?

BLITZER: Very serious stuff. Will Ripley at Pyongyang doing excellent reporting for us on the extremely tensed situation right now. Will, thank you very much.

[17:54:39] Coming up, there's more breaking news we're following. Amid a national uproar over a sexual harassment in the workplace, the White House is not questioning the 16 women who've accused Donald Trump of sexually harassing them; asked if all of these women are lying, the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee, today said, yes.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Trump's transparency. CNN has learned that President Trump is telling the State Department, he wants any remaining Hillary Clinton e-mails in its possession released as soon as possible. He is calling on the Justice Department to lift the gag order on a key FBI informant for a new congressional investigation involving Hillary Clinton. Is Mr. Trump committed to transparency or political revenge?

[17:59:50] Muddying the waters; the president is accusing Hillary Clinton of colluding with Russia and voicing concerns over the cost of the special counsel investigation. And Congress has now launched two probes into alleged wrongdoing by the Obama administration. Are the Republicans now trying to turn the tables?